Preventing childhood obesity is an urgent public health challenge that demands innovative policy approaches. Critically missing in current efforts to confronting the obesity epidemic is a quick and efficient system for translating the best available evidence from research to policy and practice. Little is known about how childhood obesity evidence is used to influence the policymaking process or the barriers and facilitators for getting research evidence translated to, and used by, policymakers. In this project, community-based participatory methods will be used to analyze the process of research translation and childhood obesity policymaking in Minnesota, with the objective of developing a system for communicating timely and relevant evidence to advocates, legislative staff, policymakers, and ultimately the agency staff charged with program implementation. [Study team members from the advocacy, agency, and legislative communities will assist with each of the project tasks to ensure that the research findings will have policy impact.
Aim 1 will use qualitative, semi-structured interviews with agency staff at the Minnesota Department of Health and legislative aides (complementing interviews already conducted with a small sample of advocates and policymakers). Interviews will examine the barriers and facilitators to use of research evidence in the decision-making and implementation stages of policy-making, and their preferred format and timing for receiving research related to childhood obesity prevention.
Aim 2 will deepen the understanding of the policy development process by integrating findings from previous studies with knowledge gained from the first aim to inform a model system for communicating research evidence from existing Minnesota-based research studies to an intermediary community-based policy center and then to relevant advocates, media contacts, agency staff, and state policymakers.
In Aim 3, the model will be piloted in the 2014 legislative session, with a sample of new research results to be selected along with study partners, and the study team will design evidence communication tools to correspond with stakeholders'preferences. A pilot evaluation of the system using interviews, surveys, and media tracking will indicate whether findings from the targeted initiative were successfully disseminated to key stakeholders.] The innovation of this proposal lies in its attention to the political and economic context of childhood obesity policymaking, which is an essential-but often overlooked-component of the evidence translation process [and its use of a community-based participatory research design]. The proposed work is significant because the project will identify a reproducible strategic communication exchange process with practical utility for decision-makers. Findings from this study will address the evidence base of policymaking intended to improve the health and quality of life of children in Minnesota and will also generate lessons for other states grappling with childhood obesity prevention within similar political and economic pressures.

Public Health Relevance

Preventing childhood obesity is an urgent public health challenge that requires evidence-based policy approaches. However, policymaking is not always based on evidence and it is difficult to translate research evidence to policymakers efficiently or effectively. This project will develop a model evidence translation system to improve the policymaking process and provide lessons for how evidence-based policies at the state level can be implemented to reduce rates of childhood obesity.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Research Grants (R03)
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Community-Level Health Promotion Study Section (CLHP)
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Esposito, Layla E
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University of Minnesota Twin Cities
Public Health & Prev Medicine
Schools of Public Health
United States
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Kite, Hanna A; Gollust, Sarah E; Callanan, Rachel A et al. (2014) Uses of research evidence in the state legislative process to promote active environments in Minnesota. Am J Health Promot 28:S44-6
Gollust, Sarah E; Kite, Hanna A; Benning, Sara J et al. (2014) Use of research evidence in state policymaking for childhood obesity prevention in Minnesota. Am J Public Health 104:1894-900